Warm to These Traditional Soups

Savoring a warm plate of homemade soup is at the heart of the Latin kitchen throughout the year, but it's never more celebrated than when the chill of winter sets in. Dive into some of the heartiest recipes you'll ever make (and taste!).

Chupe de camaronesChupe de camaronesCHUPE DE CAMARONES (Peru)
A traditional chowder from the mountain regions of Peru, the original "chupe" recipe calls for fresh river shrimp, caught by hand.

(6 servings)


2 lbs shrimp, with shells and heads
4 cups water (more if necessary)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 tablespoon aji panca chili paste (can substitute tomato paste)
1 teaspoon aji amarillo chili paste
1 cup peas, either fresh or frozen
1/4 cup long-grain white rice
1-2 ears of corn, cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks
1 lb russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks
1 teaspoon salt (to taste)
1/4-1/2 cup queso fresco, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 cup evaporated milk
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped
3 eggs

Remove heads and shells from shrimp, and refrigerate them. Place the shrimp shells and heads in a medium saucepan, add water to cover, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. While shells are simmering, heat the olive oil in a large flameproof casserole over medium heat. Add onion and garlic, and cook for 2 minutes, stirring. Stir in the aji panca (or tomato paste) and aji amarillo pastes. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue cooking, stirring often, for 10 minutes or until onion is softened. Puree shrimp shells and cooking liquid. Strain mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl, and reserve the liquid (solids can be discarded). Measure out the liquid, and add enough water to make 4 cups.

Add shrimp broth to onion mixture, and bring to a boil. Stir in peas, rice and corn chunks. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add potatoes and salt. Continue cooking until potatoes and rice are just tender (approximately 10 minutes more). Add shrimp and queso fresco. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until shrimp is just cooked through, about 4 minutes (shrimp should be pink).

Stir in the evaporated milk and oregano. Continue cooking and stirring. When the soup begins boiling again, crack the eggs into the soup, spacing them evenly so they remain separate in the soup. If you prefer, you can beat the eggs together in a bowl before adding them to the soup instead. When eggs are cooked, soup is finished.

NOTE: Aji panca, aji amarillo and queso fresco can be found at Hispanic markets. You may be able to find the cheese at a well-stocked grocery store.

Pepian de polloPEPIAN (Guatemala)
This standard of the Guatemalan kitchen was recently honored as a "heritage dish" by the country's government. While it's usually prepared with chicken, pepians made with beef or turkey are considered popular options as well.

(6 servings)

2 oz. green squash seeds
2 oz. sesame seeds
1 1/2 cinnamon sticks, broken into small pieces
4-5 roma tomatoes (whole, unpeeled)
2 oz. tomatillos
1/2 dried guajillo pepper
1/2 dried pasa peppers
10 peppercorns
Salt to taste
2 lbs chicken, cut into pieces
1 1/2 quarts water
2-3 French baguettes, cut in small pieces

Place the chicken parts in a large pot with about 1 1/2 quarts of water. Cover, and simmer for about 20 minutes until chicken is done and a golden broth emerges. Dry roast the sesame seeds until they are slightly brown. Place them on a paper towel to cool. Do the same with the squash seeds. Place the tomatoes, cinnamon fragments, tomatillos and peppers on a metal skillet on a hot burner, and allow everything to roast and blacken slightly. Turn occasionally to allow all ingredients to roast evenly.

Pour the roasted sesame and squash seeds into a blender and blend until finely ground, or about 30 seconds. Add the roasted cinnamon stick fragments and pepper corns, and grind for another 30 seconds. Then add the wet ingredients - tomatoes, tomatillos, chilies - and top with the bread pieces and about one cup of chicken broth. Blend until everything is smooth; add more chicken broth or bread fragments until you achieve the desired consistency. The sauce should drip slowly from the spoon.

Heat a pan with a bit of oil. Remove the chicken pieces from the remaining broth and fry for about 5 minutes, until golden. Then, add the chicken pieces to a large pot, and pour in the dry mix from the blender. Simmer for about ten minutes; the sauce will darken. Add a couple of pinches of salt to taste. If your sauce is thinner than you'd like, cook a bit longer; if it's too thick, add some of the remaining broth.
Serve chicken pieces topped with the dry mix. Sprinkle remaining sesame seeds on top for garnish. Serve with cooked rice.

Gandules or Pigeon PeasASOPAO DE GANDULES with Plantain Dumplings (PR)
An asopao is Puerto Rico's version of soup thickened with rice. This version with gandules, the traditional holiday bean, is a great vegetarian option, made even better by adding small plantain dumplings (bolitas de plátano) to the soup.

(6 servings)

Bolitas de plátano
2 large green plantains, peeled and shredded in food processor
1/4 tsp. crushed garlic
dash of salt

2 cans gandules
2 quarts chicken stock
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup diced cooking ham
8 oz. jar sofrito (we like Sofrito Goya)
1 cup tomato sauce
2 cups short-grain rice
½ pound West Indian pumpkin, peeled and diced
1/2 tablespoon salt, or to taste
Olives and capers
1/3 cup chopped cilantro

Form dumplings from 1/2 tablespoonfuls of shredded plantain, garlic, and salt. Set aside.
In a large pot (or caldero), boil the gandules and the stock. While the stock and gandules cook, fry the ham in the oil for a few minutes, then add the sofrito and cook about 4 more minutes. Add tomato sauce, and simmer over medium heat for 5 minutes.
Add the plantain dumplings and the rest of the ingredients to the stock and simmer for 30 minutes, or until the rice is cooked and the soup has thickened. Add cilantro just before serving.

Finish up dinner with a sweet and velvety passionfruit mousse

Ajiaco santafereñoAJIACO (COLOMBIA)
The thickening agent in Colombia's national dish comes from the three types of potatoes used in the recipe. It's distinctive "grassy" flavor comes from an herb called guascas, available in Latin American markets.

(6 servings)

1 whole chicken, cut into parts
4 quarts water
2 pounds red potatoes, peeled and cut into medium slices
3 lbs russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
2 lbs yukon gold potatoes, peeled and quartered
1 large onion
4 ears corn on the cob (fresh or frozen), cut into 3-inch pieces
1 packet (0.35 ounces) dried guascas

Place the chicken and onion in the bottom of a large pot, sprinkle with a handful of guascas, and add water. Bring to a boil and cook until the meat is tender. Remove chicken and set aside. Cover with foil and keep warm. Add the potatoes to the chicken water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for at least a couple hours. The yellow potatoes should start to break up in the soup, but if not, you can help the soup along by mashing some of the yellow potatoes in the pot.

Once the cooked chicken is cool enough to handle, remove the skin and bones. Shred the meat into small pieces. About 5 minutes before serving, add the remaining guascas and let it cook for 5 minutes. Serve in deep bowls, making sure that each bowl gets some chicken and a piece of corn on the cob.

Serving suggestions: Garnish with a dollop of heavy cream and capers. You can eat the avocado on the side with the rice, or you can cut a slice into pieces and drop into your soup bowl.

Sancocho dominicanoSANCOCHO (DR)
A staple of the Dominican kitchen, the hearty sancocho summarizes all that's good and comforting about soup: big chunks of meats and potatoes in a flavorful broth. While the recipe usually calls for chicken, more ambitious versions include up to seven different types of meats and poultry.

(6 servings)

2 1/2 quarts water
1 tablespoon salt
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
4 cloves garlic, crushed
6 chicken leg quarters
2 plantains, peeled and cut into 6 pieces
1 large onion, chopped
2 pounds potatoes, peeled
4 pounds fresh yuca (or cassava root), cut into 6 pieces

Place the water into a large pot, and add 1 tablespoon salt, chopped cilantro, garlic, chicken legs, plantains and onion. Bring to a boil, and cook for about 20 minutes. Add the potatoes and yuca to the pot, and continue to cook for another 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Serve with cooked rice.

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